- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — The Ehrlich administration yesterday said it anticipates widespread voter fraud this year, as Democrats take advantage of election-related legislation passed this session.

“I fully expect the governor’s political opponents will take advantage of the opportunities for fraud. I expect them to try to engage in organized, large-scale voter fraud,” said Paul E. Schurick, director of communications for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

“I think it will be everywhere, statewide,” Mr. Schurick said.

State Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Walker called the accusations a “scare tactic” and said Mr. Ehrlich is “petrified that the more people that vote, the less chance that [he] wins.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat, said: “I’ve never been privy to any kind of election fraud as long as I’ve been in politics. No one I know condones it.”

But Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Eastern Shore Republican, said fraud this fall is “very probable.”

House Minority Whip Anthony J. O’Donnell said he could “not see any other reason” for a slew of new voting legislation, except to enable fraud.

“It’s going to be very easy to cheat,” said Mr. O’Donnell, Calvert County Republican.

The Democrat-controlled legislature has passed a bill that will allow voters to cast ballots at 38 precincts during the week before the September primary and November general elections.

Republicans say 21 of the precincts trend heavily Democratic and will boost Democratic candidates, especially Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat running for governor.

Another measure makes it easier to vote by absentee ballot and allows voters to use provisional ballots outside their county of residence.

Republicans say it would allow rogue voters to go to many precincts outside their county because there is no statewide voter database.

A third new law would authorize electronic voting machines throughout the state without requiring a “paper trail.”

Critics of the voting machines, which are made by Diebold Inc. of Canton, Ohio, say they are easily hacked and manipulated or sabotaged.

“I have to say, the Democrats are just engaged in an abuse of power,” said Linda Schade, executive director of True Vote Maryland, a nonpartisan group devoted to integrity in elections. “That is going to contribute to a sense of mayhem in the fall elections.”

Voting security specialists say early voting, combined with electronic voting machines, can pose a huge security risk.

Aviel D. Rubin, technical director of Johns Hopkins University’s Information Security Institute, said it is a “terrible idea” to leave the Diebold machines in voting precincts for seven consecutive nights.

But Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator for the State Board of Elections, said it is “not really accurate” that the Diebold machines can be manipulated easily and that the early voting precincts will have “a level of security that voters can feel confident in.”

Democratic senators have said it is impossible to arrange for optical-scan voting machines this fall. But Mrs. Schade said Election Systems and Software, a company based in Omaha, Neb., said they could provide the machines this fall for $21.8 million.

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